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#54359 - 09/30/18 10:28 AM 10/3-10/5 Cottonwood Lakes-> Rock Creek-> Mt Whitney. Safe?
Francis M Offline


Registered: 09/15/18
Posts: 2
Loc: CA, USA
I'm planning a hike from

Tues Oct 2 Day 0) Camp at Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead (or get a head start if we get a walk-in permit)

Wed Oct 3 Day 1) Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead to Rock Creek (through Old Army Pass)

Thurs Oct 4 Day 2) Rock Creek to Guitar Lake

Fri Oct 5 Day 3) Guitar Lake up to Mt Whitney down to Whitney Portal.

We're first time backpackers, and we haven't hiked in rain and snow so we don't know what to expect. I know it will be raining on Wednesday.

While it won't be snowing on Mt. Whitney on summit day, it will probably be snowing in the previous days (Tues and Wed). Will there still be any residual snow on the trail? Will conditions from previous days make it unsafe to summit on Friday (a sunny day)?

Any advice?

Thanks,
Francis

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#54361 - 09/30/18 01:05 PM Re: 10/3-10/5 Cottonwood Lakes-> Rock Creek-> Mt Whitney. Safe? [Re: Francis M]
Goose Offline


Registered: 07/17/16
Posts: 15
Loc: NY
Hi, Francis.

The itinerary you describe is an aggressive one, possibly even very aggressive, with almost no margin for error or delay (e.g. bad weather, poor sleep, AMS, etc). What do you plan to do to acclimate prior to starting out? Why do you want to go over Old Army Pass? Would you consider adding a day or two to your plan, just in case you need it? It also strikes me as way too early to make predictions about the weather, even for Tuesday.

Unless you are in extremely good physical shape, this strikes me as biting off a bit much for first time backpackers. I am a lifelong, four season backpacker in excellent shape, a former forest fire fighter, and have summited Whitney multiple times (including twice one season). I can count on one hand the number of people that I would, or even could invite on a trip like that.

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#54363 - 09/30/18 07:29 PM Re: 10/3-10/5 Cottonwood Lakes-> Rock Creek-> Mt Whitney. Safe? [Re: Goose]
Francis M Offline


Registered: 09/15/18
Posts: 2
Loc: CA, USA
Hi Goose,

Thanks for the advice!

For acclimation: Iím hoping the Tuesday, Wed, and Thursday hikes and the sleeping at altitude for several nights will acclimate us for Mt. Whitney. The reason I chose a multi-day hike versus a one-day or two-day hike up to Mt. Whitney was for the acclimation benefits (extra time at elevation). Also, we have Diamox.

I wanted to walk through the scenic route with more lakes Ė whether through Old Army Pass or New Army Pass. I thought it would be a better than Cottonwood Pass (PCT route).

Iím hoping the head start on Tuesday would be enough extra time. I will definitely consider taking another extra day, if needed. We may camp at Trail Camp or Outpost camp if we are exhausted after summitting Whitney.

I got the weather predictions for the top of Mt. Whitney here: https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Whitney/forecasts/4418 and https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=36.6&lon=-118.28#.W7GD9WhKiHs. The snow on the summit on Wednesday is what worried me, but I assume the snow will have cleared out by the time we summit on Friday.

Iím in ok shape. We did a couple of day hikes up to 14 miles a day with about a 1000 to 2000 ft elevation gain. However, we didnít have a full pack and we were below 5000 feet (no higher peaks that I know if in Northern California). I think we will be okay moving at a slower pace and taking frequent breaks Ė every 2.5 miles or so.

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#54365 - 09/30/18 08:47 PM Re: 10/3-10/5 Cottonwood Lakes-> Rock Creek-> Mt Whitney. Safe? [Re: Francis M]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7600
Loc: Fresno, CA
Francis,
Consider this idea: When you go into the Visitor Center S of Lone Pine to pick up your permits, check on the Whitney Main Trail permits. I'll bet there will be dozens available, because the weather forecast will cause at least half the permit holders to bail. Ask them to check for entry on the current day you're there AND the next day.

If I were making your plans, I'd make the longer route you're planning to be Plan B, with Plan A to pick up the Main Trail permits. (There's currently one overnight Main Trail permit available online for Tu, Oct 2.)

If the Main Trail Plan A works... Take it slow and easy, hiking no farther than Outpost Camp first day, maybe even Lone Pine Lake on Day 0. Then maybe Trail Camp on Day 1 (or just Outpost Camp if you actually start on Day 1.) Day 2 could move to Trail Camp. Day 3, from Trail Camp to summit and back out. This sure beats packing camping gear up and over from the west side. This plan gives you a much simpler escape route if the storm is too bad to proceed. I'd hate to be stuck on the west side in the face of a storm, with a major climb up and over Trail Crest as the only exit. If the trail is ok to hike above Trail Camp, when you are there, then you can proceed. If not, you have a quick and easy exit.

On the other hand, if you are over Old Army or New Army or Cottonwood Pass, you have a long hike out, and with your car parked at Horseshoe Meadows, you might have a blanket of snow on the road for driving out. My plan A means you don't need to worry about a shuttle, since your first plan would require shuttling to the trail head before the hike, or somehow getting up to get your car from HM after the hike.

Good luck!!! and please report back how it goes.

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#54366 - 09/30/18 09:04 PM Re: 10/3-10/5 Cottonwood Lakes-> Rock Creek-> Mt Whitney. Safe? [Re: Francis M]
Goose Offline


Registered: 07/17/16
Posts: 15
Loc: NY
I very much recommend Steve's Plan A suggestion, Francis. When I initially read, "We're first time backpackers, and we haven't hiked in rain and snow so we don't know what to expect.," my immediate reaction was that the west side during the first week of October is not the right place to experience these things for the first time. Taking the same number of days to go up and back on the main trail is a very sound plan. You get to do your own trail recon and you are never more committed than by whatever distance you have hiked.

The route you suggest in your first post is indeed amazing. My daughter and I hiked over New Army Pass and around this past July. But even then, with nearly perfect weather and three nights on the trail from Horseshoe Meadows, we watched three people from a group that left when we did get chopper rides out from Crabtree Meadow Ranger Station. And that was in perfect conditions, with peak daylight and nearly twice as much time to acclimate.

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#54367 - 10/01/18 01:23 PM Re: 10/3-10/5 Cottonwood Lakes-> Rock Creek-> Mt Whitney. Safe? [Re: Goose]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7600
Loc: Fresno, CA
By the way, it appears that Recreation.gov has shut down for a week. I got this when trying to log into the site:

Quote:
We're Almost There - No Reservations Yet

We've redesigned Recreation.gov and are thrilled for you to explore our new site!

While we complete the transition to our new site, you won't be able to make, change or cancel reservations, nor can you log in to your account or create a new one. Account access and reservations are expected to be available starting on October 5 at 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). We are bringing all existing reservations over to our new site as well. If you have a reservation from October 1-5, please contact the location directly with any questions about your trip.

We encourage you to click around the site, search for locations and activities near you, and check out our trip builder to start dreaming up ideas for your next adventure. We're excited about the new Recreation.gov and hope that you are too after visiting the site!


I'm not "thrilled" that they would just pull the plug like this.

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